Accessibility links

Reggae Fans Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Bob Marley's 'Exodus' Album


Reggae star Bob Marley who died of cancer in 1981 received many accolades during his lifetime and after his death. One of these is the choice of his 1977 album Exodus as the album of the century by TIME magazine. For VOA from London, Tendai Maphosa has more on that album and Bob Marley.

Exodus was recorded in London and released in the summer of 1977. Bob Marley and his band the Wailers had left their native Jamaica after he was injured in an attempt on his life in December 1976.

The attack took place against the backdrop of widespread political violence between supporters of Jamaica's two major political parties. In a bid to pacify the factions, Marley offered to stage a free concert, which he called "Smile Jamaica". He was shot just two days before the concert.

Soon after, Marley left for London and started working on Exodus.

Vivien Goldman is a New York-based English journalist who was Marley's publicist at Island Records. She has written The Book of Exodus: The Making of Bob Marley and The Wailers' Album of the Century.

Goldman says there were many other serious contenders for the honor, but feels that Exodus was a deserving choice.

"I think there was a certain perfection to Exodus, there is a certain balance to it; it very much reflects a cycle of Bob's life at that time," she explains. " When you listen to the whole of the Exodus album in its real order, as opposed to on an iPod, you know jumping around, you see it really takes you on a journey that is very inspiring.

"Because on the first side you have a lot of really confrontational songs like, 'The Heathen' and 'Guiltiness' songs in which Bob is unflinching looking at how brutal people can be to one another, how ruthless and evil and how united we can stand up against it," Goldman notes. "And then on the second side it shows you how nice life can be when it's easier, you have the love songs and then you have songs like 'Three Little Birds' and 'One Love', all songs that make you tap into just the joy of being alive and that is the feeling that can lead you through the darkest times, knowing that the simple joy of three little birds can really bring a you smile and lift your spirits."

Goldman says what makes the choice of Exodus remarkable is the fact that Marley overcame a very humble background and grew into what many see as a voice of the oppressed.

"He came from such a materially deprived environment and he was mixed [race] and wherever he went he was the outsider," she explains. "In Trenchtown they mocked him for being too light, other areas of society they mocked him for being too dark and he had to fight for everything. That is why he is such a messenger in a way because his talent and his vision and his consciousness and his scope were so vast it is the kind of thing you almost cannot be taught in schools in a way it is just something really within.

"He just struck a chord," Goldman continues. "He has become a shamanic figure who transcended not only his race, his class, his island, his musical genre to become just one of those people that sort of zooms through our society every now and again to wake us up and make us think "

Jamaican-born reggae singer Delroy Washington, who now lives in London, knew Marley in Trenchtown, the tough Kingston ghetto where they grew up. Washington says even then Marley was clearly destined for greatness.

"He was a really good person back in the day, full of ideas, really progressive, knew far much more than you would expect the average Jamaican young person to know, he was really very well informed about a lot of different things," recalls Washington. "He had a glow about him, I do not want to sound mystical but it is true he looked golden. I remember that about Bob different from any artist in Jamaica. He looked like he was born to do something, he did not look like he was ordinary."

Marley wore his hair in dreadlocks as a sign he belonged to the Rastafarian religious movement that accepts deceased former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as God incarnate.

Washington sees the choice of Exodus by TIME magazine and other honors as just reward for Marley, who along with his fellow Rastafarians was looked down upon by the Jamaican establishment and treated with condescending curiosity by the western main stream.

"It is like the stone that the builders refused has now become the head of the corner. Bob Marley's stamp on Jamaican letters and stuff like that, nothing short of a miracle," he says.

Marley's honors include induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the U.N. Peace Medal of the Third World.

Earlier this month, the Anglican Church in Jamaica announced it was adding his song 'One Love/People Get Ready' into its hymnbook. A spokesman for the church defended the action by saying Marley may have been anti-church, but he was never anti-God.

XS
SM
MD
LG